Scuba divers should support their weightbelt around the waist. Divers should practice ditching the belt in anticipation of emergencies. They should also utilize weights that generate a mirror image and select a belt with the proper length. They should avoid lopsided belts that are uncomfortable and unsteadying. In addition, scuba divers should not place any weights beneath a tank. They should be located forward of the hips to prevent interference with the buckle’s operation.

STEP 1: Determine the amount of weight you need. If you can’t remember and don’t have it recorded, use these guidelines to get you started:

* Virtually everyone is buoyant in seawater, even in a Lycra skin: 2 to 4 lbs.

* A standard aluminum 80-cubic-foot cylinder is significantly buoyant at reserve levels: 4 to 6 lbs.

* Although the buoyancy of tropical-weight neoprene wetsuits varies, count on at least: 2 lbs. (shortie) and 4 lbs. (farmer john/jane).

At the end of your first dive, perform the ultimate buoyancy check: Find the smallest amount of weight you need to stay neutral at 15 feet with no air in your BC and 500 psi. Then, write it down!

STEP 2: Select weights that produce a mirror image. For the best balance, each side of the weightbelt should duplicate the other. A lopsided belt can be uncomfortable and unsteadying.

STEP 3: Choose a belt of proper length. The free end should extend no more than 8 inches past the buckle and not less than 2 inches. Too much can interfere with other gear and too little makes it difficult to cinch and ditch.

STEP 4: Check the buckle. Hold the buckle in one hand, the belt in another, then pull hard. The buckle should not slip at all. No more than 6 inches of excess should protrude from beneath the buckle.

STEP 5: Determine optimum placement for weights. Fasten the belt loosely around your waist, then note where you want the first weight on the side nearest the buckle. To counter the tank’s weight, most divers prefer to position weights forward of their hips (without interfering with the buckle’s operation). Do not place any weights directly beneath your tank.

STEP 6: Thread the weights. Lay the belt flat on the deck, buckle to the left, outside of the belt face up. With the weight in your right hand and the belt’s free end in the other, insert the belt’s end from the bottom of the weight up through its left slot. Slide the weight toward the buckle, stopping at the position you previously identified.

STEP 7: Add a weight-keeper or a twist. Before threading the belt through the weight’s right slot, slide a weight-keeper clip (also beginning from under its left side) to the middle of the weight. Then finish threading the belt down through the clip’s and the weight’s right slot.

If you don’t have retainer clips, you can twist the belt once before inserting the end into the weight’s right slot.

STEP 8: Determine right-side position. Before positioning weights on the belt’s right side, hold the belt around your waist and note where the right-side weights should go to balance those on the left.

STEP 9: Thread the right-side weights. Repeat the threading process for this side, remembering to bring he belt first from under the weight’s left slot.

STEP 10: Don you weightbelt. Even with a light load of weights, it’s best to hold the belt’s two ends in front of you and step over the belt before hoisting it to your waist. Do not sling your weightbelt on a crowded dive boat.

PRO TIPS

* SUPPORT IT! When putting the belt around your waist, lean forward to support the belt and weights with your back.

* CINCH IT! To cinch the belt, hold the free end in one hand and the open buckle in the other, inhale and pull in your stomach as much as possible, then cinch tight. The extra tightness on the surface will help keep your belt snug when water pressure compresses your wetsuit at depth.

* PRACTICE IT! It doesn’t matter whether you use a right-hand or a left-hand release. It does matter that you practice ditching your belt and that your buddy knows how to operate it.

* INTEGRATE IT! An alternative to the boat’s slimy web belts is a weight-integrated BC. Most work quite well with light loads.

* POCKET IT! Another common alternative is a pocket weightbelt. Easy to pack and take with you, the pockets accommodate most sizes of block weights found on dive boats.

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